Where are the Marlins targeting their free-agent dollars -- bullpen, veteran hitter, other?
Upgrading the offense is the No. 1 offseason priority, followed by beefing up the bullpen. The Marlins ranked 29th in runs scored with 615, only the Tigers (582) scored fewer. Miami also was last in home runs with 146. So, impactful, middle-of-the-order bats are the greatest needs.
Secondly, is the bullpen, which had an ERA of 4.97. That ranked 26th in the Majors. The Marlins anticipate having a stronger rotation in 2020, with prospects like Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera and Nick Neidert getting closer to being big league ready. If those pitchers progress as anticipated, the rotation should be the strength of the club. And the organization wants to give them as much bullpen assistance as possible to help close out games. The Marlins converted 27 of 49 save opportunities. They have to improve in that area.
What are the odds that the Marlins will eat Wei-Yin Chen’s contract for the whole season to clear space on the 25-man roster?
First off, active rosters will expand to 26 in 2020, with no more than 13 pitchers. The Marlins carried 13 pitchers, and mostly eight relievers all through '19. Even with the additional player, it doesn’t change the fact that the chances are increasing that Chen does not fit into the Marlins’ '20 plans. The 34-year-old left-hander will be entering the final season of his five-year, $80 million contract that he signed in '16. Chen is set to make $22 million, and there is a $16 million conditional player option for '21, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Chen made 45 relief appearances and had a 6.59 ERA, logging 68 1/3 innings.
I think the Marlins will look to trade Chen, which will be extremely difficult. The scenarios likely would be trying to attach him as part of a larger deal, with Miami inheriting at least part of a contract another club may be looking to unload.
If that doesn’t happen, and the Marlins feel they have enough pitching depth, they could make the decision and cut ties with Chen.
I think, ideally, the Marlins would like for Anderson to be their everyday third baseman. Because of need, the 26-year-old ended up playing a lot in right field. Before fracturing a bone in his left hand in late August, Anderson appeared in 64 games at third base and 55 in right field. In 2018, it was 91 games in right field and 67 at third base. If Anderson is mostly at third base, that either means, prospects like Monte Harrison or Jesús Sánchez are ready to play regularly in the outfield, or the club signed a free-agent outfielder. The way the sport has evolved, position flexibility is a huge bonus. As long as Anderson is in the lineup, he’s shown he can play either third base or right field at a high level.
As for Sierra, I don’t anticipate him being the starting center fielder. Also, because he is out of options, I think he is a potential trade candidate this offseason.
Do you see José Ureña starting or relieving?
Ureña is going to be one of the more interesting players to watch this offseason, because he could either be part of the bullpen, rotation or perhaps be traded. All three are legitimate options. The right-hander was the Opening Day starter the past two seasons, but in 2019, durability became an issue. He dealt with a herniated disc and was limited to 24 games, including 13 starts.
Ureña made $3.2 million in 2019, and his salary shouldn’t jump much in arbitration in '20, making him affordable. If he is back, I believe he would be looked at as a bullpen option. From there, depending on how the rotation and rest of ‘pen shape up, you never know. He could handle a couple of different roles.
Who will be the closer next year?
Locking down save chances was an issue, especially after Sergio Romo was traded to the Twins in late July. Miami converted just 27 of 49 save opportunities. Again, I could see Ureña being in the bullpen, but probably not closing. Drew Steckenrider, who missed most of the season with a right elbow injury, is expected to be back and factor into the late innings. Ryne Stanek could get a shot, as well. And then don’t rule out Romo. I could see the Marlins signing Romo again in free agency, and perhaps trade him again midseason.